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Do The Thing That You Fear?

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

I made these two pieces in 2016, for a two-person show titled "Ordinary Opposites" with artist Ben Ahlvers at NCECA in Kansas City, Missouri. The idea of using genitalia in my work had been in the back of my mind for a few years. It made sense, since many of the other pieces that I made, "Tortuga" for example, and others had a tangential reference to the fleshy stretchiness of the penis.

The fear that I have now is publicizing it. Back then, a friend of mine that I went to BYU with questioned the wisdom of making this work, and I think this is the root of my fear. I mentioned to him that there's the first amendment and he said, "They won't fire you for that, they'll find some other thing". His perspective is certainly skewed, and may not even be accurate, but it did concern me.

I have put this work on social media and then pulled it, out of fear of being judged by my more conservative colleagues, or my students, or their parents. I've made a lot of work over the years, but we all know how one thing can be taken out of context and that one thing can define you in this myopic and fast-paced world of social media. Sure, I have tenure and freedom of speech, but I do live in Utah.

The thing is, I'm not entirely sure if this is good work. Like a lot of my work, it was purchased by collectors that give it legitimacy, but I will always have my doubts about it. I'm not sure if any of my work is good, despite the places it's taken me. I can only make it to the best of my technical and conceptual ability and then put it in the world. My job is to create and not litigate. The best opportunities have come to me as a result of my work and art, but I'm always concerned that it could come crashing down.

I teach my kids and students to face their fears. I think humans, in general, talk about and teach the ideal, or the thing they wish they embodied, and I do wish I was fearless, or I hope I am brave enough to feel the fear and do it anyway. This work is tame, by art world standards, but it is challenging in the culture that I find myself in and it's challenging for me. I have moved on from this type of work, but I did make it and this is who I am. I have spent way too much time mentally litigating this work and not owning it. I am now completely putting it out there so that this mental irritant of not living my full self can ease.

Now back to the studio to make more art.


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